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Killed, injured Canadian troops acted professionally, Kenney says

WATCH ABOVE: How will Andrew Doiron’s death impact Canada’s mission in Iraq? Global’s chief political correspondent Tom Clark reports.

OTTAWA — Finger pointing from the Kurdish forces in the wake of a Canadian soldier’s death will not help matters, Defence Minister Jason Kenney said Sunday, standing up for the Canadians’ actions.

Hours after the friendly-fire death of Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron became public, a spokesman for Iraq’s Kurdish forces said Doiron and three other Canadian troops ignored an order to remain in their vehicle, then showed up at the front line unannounced.

WATCH: Federal Defence Minister Jason Kenney defended the actions of the Canadian Forces members who became the targets of friendly fire during a training mission in Iraq. 

READ MORE: Kurd official says Canadian soldier killed in Iraq after group ignored order

“We would ask our allies in the peshmerga to wait until there is an investigation,” a measured Kenney said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark.

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“We don’t think it’s helpful to be talking about speculation in public.”

Canada has launched two investigations into the incident which also left three other Canadian soldiers injured.

“The task we’ve given our special forces is to assist and train [Kurdish forces] to be effective in defending hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians from ISIS,” Kenney said. “So we have to maintain a working relationship of trust. Obviously there are going to be some difficult questions to ask in these investigations.”

WATCH: Mark Kennedy, parliamentary bureau chief for the Ottawa Citizen and Scott Taylor, editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine discuss how the deadly friendly fire incident will be front and centre in the house during question period on Monday.

The area had seen heavy fighting against Islamic State militants the previous day.

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“When they returned, the peshmerga asked them to identify themselves,” Hekmat told The Associated Press. “They answered in Arabic, that’s when peshmerga started shooting. It was their fault.”

Hekmat added that he doesn’t know why the Canadians were there. “I consider it an improper action by the Canadians and illogical,” he said.

Kenney shot back Sunday, noting it’s the Canadians who are training the peshmerga and “have protocols for things of this nature.”

WATCH: Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hekmat on Sunday said a group of Canadian soldiers showed up unannounced Friday to the village of Bashiq, in Iraq’s Nineveh province near the militant-held city of Mosul.

Canadian commanders in the field have communicated their belief that Doiron and his comrades approached the situation appropriately, the minister said.

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“Our belief is that our guys operated professionally,” Kenney said. “These guys were battle-hardened in Afghanistan, they have enormous experience. They know what they’re doing, and we Canadians should trust them implicitly.”

A senior  Canadian government official who spoke to Global News on the condition of anonymity also disagreed with the statements made by the Kurdish spokesperson.

“I disagree with the perspective of the Kurdish spokesman.  It misrepresents the facts on the ground,” the official said.

He added that the members of the Canadian forces had passed through “a number of Kurdish positions” before coming under fire for “unknown” reasons.

The last time a friendly-fire incident resulted in the death of a Canadian soldier was in the early 2000s, in Afghanistan. At that time, there was not only an investigation, but also charges brought against the two American soldiers involved.

WATCH: The Conservative government has gone ‘too far’ in anti-terror missions:, New Democrat defence critic says

New Democrat defence critic Jack Harris on Sunday said the Opposition will be demanding the prime minister and Conservative cabinet answer for the attack in Iraq.

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“Why are [the troops] in this position? Why are we putting them at risk?” Harris asked. “Frankly, I think this government has gone too far. They have overstepped what Canadians expected for the missions, and this is the tragic result.

While Harris said he doesn’t think Canadians have the appetite for an ongoing mission in Iraq, the defence minister was adamant this “very tragic incident” will not dissuade Canada from continuing the anti-terror mission.

WATCH: The relationship with Kurdish forces may be bruised, but it’s not not battered, retired colonel says

As of Sunday morning, Kenney said his understanding was Canadian troops in Iraq are operating under the same rules of engagement for the same training mission.

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The minister tiptoed around any effects the Kurdish spokesman’s statement may have on the relationship between the two allies, bute retired colonel George Petrolekas said he is confident it will be fine.

“I think it’s bruised, but it’s not battered,” said the former strategic adviser to the chief of defence staff. “While there might be bumps in the road, I don’t think they’ve battered the relationship.”

With files from The Associated Press

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